The US will leave Iraq on its own terms and when it is “safe” to do so, US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has said.
“The president said we want to be out of the Middle East. But what we need to do is leave on our terms, and we need to leave in a fashion in which ISIS/Daesh has been fully eliminated. We took care of the physical caliphate and we’re working very hard now to mop up the rest of ISIS,” O’Brien said, speaking to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
“I think we’ll come up with a resolution, we had a team from NATO this week. I think you’re going to see far more NATO involvement in Iraq,” O’Brien added.
Pressed on whether the US would respect Iraq’s sovereign choice, O’Brien said that the US looked forward “to leaving an Iraq that’s safe and that’s secure and that’s independent, and that’s what the Iraqis want as well.”
Commenting on the Iraqi parliament’s resolution demanding the complete withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country, O’Brien downplayed its significance.
“With respect to the resolution you’re talking about that was a non-binding resolution, so it seems they’ve learned something from our democracy with non-binding resolutions…This was a non-binding resolution passed by a Shia-only group of legislators. The Sunnis boycotted it, the Kurds boycotted it.”
On Friday, US media reported that Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi formally asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to develop a mechanism to withdraw the estimated 5,000 US troops still stationed in the war-torn country. In a phone call with Pompeo, Mahdi reportedly objected to US forces entering Iraq and aircraft flying over the country’s airspace.
On Saturday, US media reported that Washington had warned Baghdad that it could lose access to its central bank account at the US Federal Reserve Bank if it went through with its decision to expel US troops from the country. Last week, following the Iraqi parliament’s vote, President Trump threatened to hit Iraq with sanctions that would “make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame” by comparison, and said that the US would not leave Iraq until Baghdad paid the US back for the costs of building the Balad military base north of the Iraqi capital.
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